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Hardcover: 137 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 27, 2010)
Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
When news reached me about the death of renowned poetess, Ai, I knew that I must write something about her and her unwavering lyrical examination of the human condition in America. Her last collection, No Surrender, will be released in the fall and it is an occasion to pay her tribute.
I'm pregnant again.
I know I've sinned
But I am paying for it.
Don't make my girl suffer
Because her mother used poor judgment
And got herself in trouble out of wedlock.
In Ai's final collection, she examined her life, her family tree, her
existence as a woman and writer, and her profound effect on other people.
She used the same penetrating gaze on herself that she had used on her other
subjects, both deconstructing her sexual and racial identity and then
reinventing them. She knew her power. She never wallowed in pity or regret
and applied the same narrative rules to herself as she did to others. That
was her supreme strength. That was what made her a singular voice in
It's ironic that the last poem, "The Cancer Chronicles" closes the door on this brilliant career. She died of complications of an undiagnosed cancer. These words ring so true and exact in Ai's final glorious act of letters:
Yet she lingered as sometimes the dying must
To further their endless torment
As if it weren't enough that they knew all too well
Life was limited and unjust.